We live in an age where comic books and geek culture are now mainstream entertainment. For most people the biggest sign of the times changing was when the Avengers all appeared on the big screen together. For me however, it was when Marvel announced the goofy B-list space comic I had fallen in love with was getting a movie. Sure I loved Guardians of the Galaxy, but how could Marvel possibly convince people to buy a ticket to see a walking tree and a talking raccoon? Sure enough word of mouth was enough to bring the Guardians to the mainstream audience and even become many people’s favorite Marvel movie. So could director James Gunn strike gold twice with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2?
Guardians 2 takes place what seems to be a short amount of time after the events of the first film. The group of heroes is tasked to protect a power source from an alien race in exchange for Gamora’s sister Nebula. However, Rocket gets the group in trouble after stealing from the very people they were hired by. From here the Guardians flee and run into none other than Star-Lord’s dad Ego, played by Kurt Russel.
The movie quickly changes pace as the group is split up. Star-Lord, Gamora, and Drax set off with Ego and his assistant Mantis, a new character who can feel others emotions by touching them. Meanwhile Rocket and Groot are reunited with Yondu for their own adventure. What is most apparent about this movie compared to the first is how much more personal it is. While the first film thrust our protagonists onto an adventure to save the galaxy, here we are given a lot of downtime with each character and explore more of what keeps this group of misfits together.
There is not as much action crammed into Guardians 2 as the first, but director James Gunn makes up for it by making some interesting choices that mix up the tired pace of the superhero movie. The central conflict of the film doesn’t become apparent until about halfway through the movie and when it does it feels earned. And by the conclusion of the movie the stakes are raised in one of the more heartwarming conclusions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Characters is where this movie certainly shines brightest. Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord is tasked with carrying the weight of this movie as the story revolves around his reunion with his father. He does a great job of presenting the same cocky Star-Lord from the first film while also revealing some more of his emotional past. By far the best performance of the movie is Michael Rooker’s Yondu. Yondu’s character is fleshed out from just being the thieving scoundrel to ultimately becoming the heart of the movie. A lot of this is owed to his scenes alone with Rocket Raccoon where they come to the realization that they ultimately aren’t that different from one another.
One of my biggest concerns entering the movie however, was baby groot. While he is cute, I was afraid that a bulk of the screen time would be given to him just to sell toys rather than to further the plot. The opening credits scene only helped further that fear as we are given about 3 minutes of Baby Groot dancing while a more important fight takes place in the background. Luckily the film never heads that direction again and Baby Groot is given some pretty good jokes without over saturating the film.
The best comedic performance of the movie is without a doubt Dave Bautista’s Drax. All of the best one liners from the movie are delivered by Bautista with excellent timing, and I can’t think of a single one of his jokes that did not manage to catch a big laugh from the audience. Mantis and Ego were also great additions to the film managing to feel like they have been living in this universe all along rather than just being the new characters.
The most disappointing character arc this time around was definitely Gamora. Zoe Saldana delivered an excellent performance, but she was given less to work with this time around as she really took back seat to Star-Lord’s story. Which is a shame as there is more to be explored with Gamora and Nebula’s relationship.
Director James Gunn really brought to life the Marvel cosmic Universe in his first film. Here he goes a step further into really giving it its own flare. Every shot emits beautiful neon colors that really sells the other worldly aesthetic of all the locations our heroes visit. So many shots of this movie could be turned into still frames and would look beautiful as stand alone pieces of art. It’s this which really helps to keep the audience’s eyes glued to the screen.
Not only is the movie beautiful, but without spoilers James Gunn delivers the best Stan Lee cameo of any of the Marvel movies to date. And for fans of the comics there are several great Easter eggs to keep your eyes out for, as well as one post credits scene that could play a very pivotal role in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everything about this movie is fun and less concerned about the seriousness of it all. This manages to let the audience be less concerned about the next movie and just enjoy the one they are watching.
Usually the soundtrack wouldn’t be such a big deal for reviewing a film. However James Gunn essentially made the Awesome Mix vol. 1 a character in the first film. Whenever I hear certain songs in that soundtrack I immediately link it back to the exact moment it was played in the film. It was almost as if the songs were written for the movie, which is crazy because these songs were all considered classics well before the release of Guardians of the Galaxy. Awesome Mix vol. 2 unfortunately doesn’t live up to the greatness of the first. While there are plenty of great songs in the mix here, none of them really feel necessary to the movie. It feels like music they play while your shopping, you might like the song, but you are not going to hear that song and tie it to that moment of your life.
There are a few exceptions though. Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl) by Looking Glass actually plays a pretty important part to the story that brilliantly explains the motivation for the villain of the film. Also The Chain by Fleetwood Mac was played at a perfect time in the climax of the film that I won’t soon forget. Weirdly enough though the score for the movie is excellent. None of the Marvel movies have yet to have a very memorable score, but this is certainly the best we have gotten so far. Especially the track titled “Kraglin and Drax” which is real standout.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a smaller more intimate experience than its predecessor. In a time where comic book movies have been trying so hard to out do one another with more action and more heroes, it feels nice to take a step back and appreciate the characters we loved from the first film. Is it the best movie in the Marvel Universe… maybe not, but it is the best sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy, further solidifying that this series will stand the test of time on its own. If you are a fan of the first Guardians of the Galaxy you will be able to enjoy all the fun that vol. 2 delivers.
Overall Score: 9/10